My visit to Shanghai was filled with both positive and negative experiences, more so than any other city I have visited on my travels. In a city with such a large population, there are many people who have fallen victim to scams and petty theft on a daily basis here especially tourists and other foreign visitors.
My hostel was located 2 minutes walk from the Nanjing Road, China’s premier shopping street and a hotspot for tourists with over 1 million visitors passing through the street daily.
Plastered on the walls of the hostel reception and the elevators were posters with information about several different types of scams that we should be aware of whilst exploring the city. Reading the posters, it didn’t seem realistic that I would encounter people trying to scam me on the streets or any other area in the city however I could not have been more wrong.
My first day wandering down Nanjing Road I was stopped no less than 15 times by people pestering me and trying to initiate one of the scams I had read about online and in the hostel. The first scam and probably the most notorious one for the general tourist population is the Tea Scam.
In this scam you will be approached by young students or a young couple, in my case it was a young couple. They divulge information about a “Tea Ceremony” that they are going to and say they can bring you along. If you decide to go with them then you will be brought to a building where a small tea ceremony will take place, there are no prices on the menu’s for the tea and the bill will come to an extortionate amount of money that can easily come to over €100.
If you are approached by students or young couples that ask you to a tea ceremony I advise you to be cautious so that you can avoid being scammed like thousands of people previously.
Massage Parlour Scam:
This scam targets western looking men and I was approached more than 10 times per day by people executing this type of scam as I walked down the main shopping streets. A man or woman will approach you holding business cards with photos of young Asian women printed on them. They will tell you that you can pick a girl to give you a massage for a cheap price.
If you go with the person who approached you, you will be brought to a seedy massage parlour where a massage will take place plus extras. If a man opts for the “happy ending” then they are wide open to blackmail and extortion due to the fact that solicitation is highly illegal in China. The scammers know that this is illegal and know that anyone that falls for this scam will not be able to go to the police once they have had their money taken.
This scam can cost the victim in excess of €1500 that in most cases cannot be returned or cancelled from the credit card. There are many reputable massage parlours in the Pudong area so I recommend researching a specific one to go to before choosing a random one along the street.
Pickpockets & Thieves
Like all major cities, petty crime is highly prevalent. In Shanghai there are many pickpockets and thieves operating on the subway and in large crowded tourist areas. On my second night I went out with my friend to shoot some photos of The Bund skyline and on our way we witnessed a thief emptying wallets and purses into a rubbish bin whilst taking money and belongings out.
It was while shooting the photos with my tripod on The Bund that I experienced first hand the pickpocketing thieves. As I was taking the photos I felt tug on my camera bag, as I turned around I could see a man with his hand outstretched trying to open the bag. When he saw me looking he acted as if nothing had happened and when confronted about what he was trying to do he simply walked off to try somewhere else. Luckily the zips on my camera bag are rubberized and waterproof, therefore they are difficult to pull open and closed. It was only after my experience here that I realized how easy it would be for them to pickpocket unsuspecting tourists at night.
Overall my time in Shanghai was pleasant but it did have many occurrences where I felt slightly unsafe walking around at night. You can check out the Shanghai category of my travel blogs for places to visit and things to see in this megacity by scrolling down on this page. Be sure to follow my Instagram @conalphoto for updates on my blogs and announcements about upcoming photo projects.